In Spring 2022, nine architecture graduate students were challenged to design a new AgroEcology Innovation District at North Campus at the University of Maryland. The work was undertaken as a 7-week project assignment in ARCH 407, taught by Michael Ezban, Clinical Assistant Professor of Architecture. This design exercise is an exploration in “agricultural urbanism,” or urbanism in which agriculture, buildings, and infrastructure are developed in tandem, in contrast to “urban agriculture,” where agriculture is proposed for derelict areas of pre-existing urbanism. Student design strategies for the AID draw heavily from nine historical and contemporary case studies of Agricultural Urbanism projects by a range of designers.
The AgroEcology Innovation District (AID) is a proposed new development initiative at UMD that seeks to create and amplify new spatial relationships between agriculture and public space, human and nonhuman ecologies, and campus and urban development. Student design strategies for the AID will draw heavily from nine historical and contemporary case studies of Agricultural Urbanism projects by a range of designers. AID radically reconfigures North Campus through the design of three zones:
ZONE 01: Urban Corridor Agriculture Zone (West side of Balt Ave)
An area of high-density development, owned and operated by UMD, that mixes student housing, commercial, and agriculture program. The buildings here have a dual responsibility to help create the shape of the increasingly dense Baltimore Avenue urban corridor, while also serving as a new gateway (pedestrian and/or vehicular) from College Park into the UMD Campus and the Paint Branch Stream and Campus Creek Habitat Corridors and trail systems. This zone exhibits to the public how urban life and agriculture can be creatively intertwined.
ZONE 02: Campus Agriculture Zone (North of Campus Creek)
An area of mid-density development characterized by interrelated buildings and productivelandscapes that take the place of vast surface parking lots and playing fields. This zone features a range of agricultural practices that enable both academic research AND public aesthetic experiences. Buildings here are lower scale than at ZONE 01, and include educational programming, greenhouses, and a public visitor center. This zone generates excitement for the possibilities of sustainable 21st century agricultural practices by showcasing new technologies alongside the wisdom of indigenous practices.
ZONE 03: Campus Cohabitation Zone (Campus Farm + Animal Sciences Area)
An area of relatively low density development that fosters a range of multispecies encounters and education at various indoor and outdoor spaces. Outdoor spaces enable agriculture and human interaction with farm animals, and the historic Campus Farm is enlivened by a new building: a 16,000sf Multispecies Learning Pavilion, which will be the new public face of the Campus Farm. This zone also connects directly to the newly restored Campus Creek Habitat Corridor, where further encounters with nonhumans are possible along a new trail system that connects to the Paint Branch Stream trails. By shaping a wide array of embodied experiences with nonhumans, this zone aims to foster a sense of care and responsibility for other-than-human species.